Author Interview: Graham Hoey, Peak District Gritstone
- Thursday 11 March 2021
With fifty years of grit climbing experience and forty years spent producing climbing guidebooks, Graham Hoey is extremely well equipped to illuminate the pleasures of gritstone climbing. His latest book, Peak District Gritstone, is a fully comprehensive guide to traditional gritstone climbing and features over 2,000 carefully selected routes graded from Mod to E10. Split into three sections, Peak District Gritstone explores the unique crags across the expanse of the peaks from Wharncliffe Crags and Black Rocks to Chew Valley and Kinder.
In this interview, Graham tells us the answer to a great guidebook, reveals the best places to start for novice gritstone climbers, and highlights the hidden gems to be found along the way.
Below: AshTreeWall - ANDY WEST ON ASH TREE WALL. © JOHN COEFIELD
How did you choose the routes included in the book?
From the start, I decided to include well-described and quality routes, having no wish to include mediocre crags or routes purely to bulk the guide out. I began by choosing the finest crags, taking into account their accessibility, quality of rock and the number, grade range and quality of routes available. I then went on to choose the best climbs from personal experience of climbing them and, in the case of the very hardest routes, from their reputation and the recommendations of others who had climbed them; Tom Randall, Pete Whittaker, John Roberts and Jon Read were particularly helpful with these as you might expect!
What do you look for in a good guidebook and how does Peak District Gritstone fit the bill?
I want to know that all the information within the guide is as accurate and as up to date as possible. I also want to find the guidebook interesting to read, something that I pick up to enjoy, and to be inspired by the descriptions of the crags and routes. I’ve really tried to express my passion for gritstone climbing throughout all elements of my book and I hope I’ve succeeded in doing this by combining my long gritstone experience with all my previous work on guidebooks, alongside my knowledge of the history of these climbs.
By climbing over 1,300 routes across the area in a short period of time, I have tried to normalise the grades such that people don’t get nasty surprises when they go from crag to crag, as used to be the case. That has resulted in quite a few upgradings and there are hopefully few sandbags within! It is also mentioned where gear is crucial at a grade or for safe belays at the top. Additionally, I’ve applied extra grades to routes where it is helpful. Climbs which are commonly highballed are also given Font bouldering grades and many of the hardest routes have been given additional French grades.
Also important is the appearance of the book, and in this respect, I think John Coefield and the team have done a great job. They’ve opted for a clean white background for the text and a full topographic coverage. They’ve also sourced some superb action photographs from some of the best photographers around: Mike Hutton, Adam Long, Pete Wilson, Dave Parry, Keith Sharples and Ian Smith to name a few. There's even a beautiful poem by Jules Lines.
DP_Grit_Blackrocks - JAMES PEARSON ON CURVING ARÊTE. © DAVE PARRY
The book includes nationally significant crags such as Stanage Edge and the Roaches but does it offer any that are lesser known but offer equally brilliant climbing?
If the crag is in the book, it’s well worth visiting! Those crags on the east will be familiar to most climbers but the Chew Valley and Moorland crags described here are less well known yet contain some absolutely superb climbing in wonderful locations, particularly if it's peace and quiet you are after. Visitors and many locals who are habitually drawn to the easily accessible Eastern edges and Roaches escarpment will find that it’s well worth making the effort to ‘get up high’.
There’s the noble Laddow, such an important forcing ground in the history of gritstone climbing, Wimberry, with phenomenal lines up the most incredible rock architecture in the Peak, the classic cracks, grooves and arêtes of Shining Clough and Tintwistle Knarr. The hidden gem of Standing Stones with its beautiful, pocketed rock bathed in sunshine, or the peace, solitude and coolness on offer at Ravenstones, Dovestones Edge and Kinder North. Then there's fine-grained Wharncliffe, Puttrell's early playground, with its lovely square-cut holds and Dovestone Tor's Hueco-graced juggy and safe VSs. Finally, there’s the ‘wallflower’ crag, Castle Naze, ideal for breaking into the magic VS grade, and last but not least the unique New Mills Torrs, the ‘Crag under the town’ with its bolted grit pillars.
Below: Kenton Cool … - KENTON COOL ON GREAT BUTTRESS © IAN PARNELL
Are there any routes you’d recommend for people just getting into climbing, or for practising your craft?
Most routes on Windgather and Birchen Edge fit the bill, but on all the other crags, I have identified their suitability for beginners within their introduction. Also, throughout the guidebook, the route descriptions identify those routes which are suitable for beginners, either to lead or to second (if poorly protected). I’ve also identified routes useful for moving between grades, those at the top of a grade, and those at the bottom of the next grade to enable climbers to progress.
When you’re not climbing in the Peak District (lockdown aside), where else in the world do you most enjoy climbing?
My non-UK ‘spiritual home’ is in the Gorges du Verdon but over the past few years my wife, Helen, and I have travelled more extensively, and I’ve climbed in so many wonderful locations. I’m drawn to less popular areas with long, multi-pitch climbs. Fortunately, these still exist in Europe and so I visit France, Spain and Greece regularly. I love the High Sierra in the USA and our time in Patagonia still seems like a dream. However, one place I could imagine spending a lot more time in is Australia; the Blue Mountains and Tasmania are absolutely bewitching locations.
To buy a copy of Peak District Gritstone, click HERE.